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Cedar Mill News
Volume 4, Issue 4


April 2006

Protecting The Land That Feeds Us

By Susan W. Clark, OSALT

Most of us have no experience in producing anything more than a few tomatoes in September. Year round food production would be completely beyond us. In addition, many urban dwellers have no access to land that they could garden, should they need to. Access to land needs to be part of community food security planning, and Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Land Trust (OSALT) is working to make that possible.

By accepting land donations, OSALT is taking open lands off the market, dedicating them to use by local growers to feed local people. OSALT combines land protection with research and education, helping to produce the next generation of gardeners and farmers.

Population growth is endangering much of the best of US agricultural land, and Oregon’s land is ranked in the top ten of most endangered by the Land Trust Alliance (www.lta.org/). As long as land is on the market, its cost will follow the market, often pricing a farmer or gardener off the land. (OSALT) was formed to hold and protect open land for productivity and habitat.

As oil prices climb more people are seeing the importance of local food production. Higher gas prices impact the food supply by making personal trips to distant grocery stores more expensive, and by raising the cost of trucking produce across the continent and the oceans. Petroleum is also used to make fertilizers, run farm equipment, heat greenhouses, and power irrigation. Higher fuels costs will definitely impact what we pay in our grocery stores, so any personal or neighborhood gardening that can save a bit of fuel can help keep food affordable.

How OSALT works

OSALT acquires land by donation. This most often happens when a landowner donates the land to OSALT. It has also happened that a group of concerned individuals, intent on keeping a parcel of land from being developed, have worked with OSALT to raise funds by donation and/or grants that enable the purchase of land for protection.

If you have agricultural land and want to keep it in agricultural production, you know you face challenges. In many cases, OSALT can help. If you have no one to pass the land to, OSALT can hold the land and make certain it is kept in agricultural production. If you have children, but they are not interested in agriculture, OSALT can help you protect the land and still provide your children with an inheritance. If you have children and one wants to carry on the agricultural traditions of the family, but you fear that if you give the land to that child the others will fight over what they see as an “unfair” disposition of the land, OSALT can help.

More than land acquisition

Once funding is obtained, a program called Food in the City is ready to be launched wherever neighbors are interested and property can be found. The program will combine community garden space with classes such as gardening, seed saving, and preserving foods, and a commercial kitchen that will provide space both for cooking instruction and small business food production.

Salsa, jams, pies, and breads are just a few of the products micro-entrepreneurs could produce in the OSALT kitchen, helping to feed the community and supplement their income. OSALT envisions communities building localized food systems that would provide grass roots food security, improved self-sufficiency, closer community ties, fresh, local food, and improved nutrition.

Whatever your situation, if you have agricultural land and you want it to stay in agriculture, OSALT can probably help. Please contact us at land@osalt.org for more information. We are happy to discuss how OSALT may be able to help you achieve your goals.

A land owner can donate the land to OSALT but retain what is called “life tenancy.” This is a legal right to occupy the land, and would provide the donor with tax benefits of donating the land, but also the very valuable right to a place to live.

OSALT is an all volunteer organization and doesn’t have funding to purchase property or to pay off mortgages. Each piece of land that OSALT holds is either owned free and clear or paid off by some sort of fund raising. Since every property is unique, the details of each agreement are constructed to meet the needs of that particular owner and their land.

To learn more about donations, classes, and volunteering, see the OSALT website at www.osalt.org.



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The Cedar Mill News
Published monthly by the Cedar Mill Business Association, Inc.,
P.O. Box 91177
Portland, OR 97291-0177

Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
12110 NW West Rd
Portland, OR 97229